LATJ: The Chosen

23 12 2009

It is a horrible feeling to be left out or not to be chosen. You might feel that you aren’t good enough to be part of the “team”. To know that you weren’t among those that were chosen could leave you feeling lonely or insignificant. In thinking about being a part of God’s “team” and spending eternity with Him in heaven, does God choose us or do we choose God? Actually, it’s both. God’s desire is that all should come to know Him and share in His love. “His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:5a) God’s desire has always been to adopt us into His family, and He has provided a way for us to do just that. “For it is my Father’s will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life — that I should raise them at the last day.” (John 6:40) So you see that God chooses us.

Some people do not feel comfortable with a God that chooses. They want a God that welcomes all regardless of the choices that they make. But knowing that God chooses you is only half of the equation. You still have the choice as to whether you are going to join Him. God has extended His hand toward you and you simply have to reach out and accept His offer of salvation. He is offering you a gift but you have to accept that gift in order for it to be opened. The Bible shares with us many times where God spoke of His plans and each time the people had a choice to make — to follow God or to ignore Him and do what they wanted to do. In one instance God gave His people a choice and told them of the consequences of the wrong choice — but it was their call to make. “Therefore, Jeremiah, go and warn all Judah and Jerusalem. Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am planning disaster against you instead of good. So turn from your evil ways, each of you, and do what is right.’ But they replied, ‘Don’t waste your breath. We will continue to live as we want to, following our own evil desires.’” (Jeremiah 18:11)

Even today we many times take that same attitude with God, telling Him that we will do whatever we want. It is unfortunate that we fall into that attitude when we know that God’s plan is so much better than anything that we could imagine. We want the freedom to make choices but are often unwilling to accept the consequences of those decisions. God does not want that any should perish, but He loves us enough to give us the choice to decide for ourselves. Know that your choice about God has eternal significance, so you should consider it very carefully.


LATJ: When Little is Much

15 12 2009

You may have heard someone say something like “God, if you will just do this one thing for me then I will believe.” Or, “God, if you will do this for me then I will do whatever you want me to do.” You may have even said that yourself. The thinking is that if God will bless us in some way then we will do something for God. But that is not faith. That is just “you do something for me and I’ll do something for you.” Faith says that we will do what God wants us to do with no expectation other than that God will use it for His purpose. We want to be blessed before we act. In reality, God is waiting for us to take the step of faith so that He can bless us.

In this chapter, we are reminded of this order when Jack says “in order to receive the food He would provide, the crowd needed to obey Him and sit down.” It wasn’t until after the crowd obeyed that Jesus provided for their needs. It is also important to note that both faith and patience are required. Faith reminds us that God will do what He promises (He has kept ALL of His promises). Patience is needed because we are only seeing part of the picture. God, in His infinite wisdom and perfect timing, will fulfill His promises at just the right time. So while we are obedient we should not always expect to see immediate results. In fact, we may never actually see the results ourselves. But our part in faith tells us that God will take care of the results. While it’s true that faith produces patience, our patience will also strengthen our faith. In those times when it does take a while before we see the blessings of God, our faith grows as we wait expectantly for the full workings of God to be completed.

Paul encourages us to remember this in Hebrews 10:35-37: “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.’” Knowing that God always delivers on His promises should encourage us through every situation. Remember that God is never early, He is never late, He is always right on time.

LATJ: From Head to Heart

8 12 2009

Justification, sanctification, glorification. These are wonderful things to understand as a Christian. Justification refers to our being declared just or righteous before God. Sanctification refers to the process of being made holy or perfect before God. Glorification refers to our joining God and partaking in His glory. The Bible shows that these are the three phases, if you will, through which all believers progress. When you accept Christ as your Savior, you are immediately justified. Through the work of the Holy Spirit you are being changed and made more and more holy everyday (sanctification is a process, not an event). And one day in the future, when you die or when Christ comes again, you will be glorified with God in heaven.

But is understanding theology and all of the other ‘ology’s a requirement for living a Christian life? Absolutely not! On many occasions Christ rebuked the religious leaders for their hypocrisy. They were very well versed in the scriptures but lacked understanding of their true meaning. Like so many people today they had a lot of head knowledge but very little heart knowledge. Billy Graham has said, “Our generation has become well versed in Christian terminology, but is remiss in the actual practice of Christ’s principles and teachings. Hence, our greatest need today is not more Christianity but more true Christians.” (from Peace with God). Christ is more interested in what is in our heart than what is in our head.

So how do we become more like Christ and live a Christ-like life? We must first spend time with God by reading His word and praying. God will reveal His will and desires to you. And second, we must apply that information to our lives and to the choices that we make daily. In his book “Think Like Jesus”, George Barna says that “Righteousness is not just knowing what is proper, but acting on that knowledge.” It is the choices that we make that reveal the conviction that is in our heart. All of the knowledge and understanding that we gain by studying and memorizing God’s word will not lead to wisdom by itself. People with a lot of knowledge can make unwise decisions, and people with less knowledge can make very wise decisions. And herein lies the point — the difference between knowledge and wisdom is choice.

And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15) Choose wisely.

LATJ: The Eyes Have It

19 11 2009

Witnesses are very important to getting to the truth. One may question the motivation for someone doing certain things, but a witness testifying to the event is quite powerful. Having multiple witnesses that testify to the same things adds credibility and certainty to those events.

In Josh McDowell’s book “More Than a Carpenter”, he presents a very powerful argument for the validity of the Bible and the life of Jesus. After Jesus’ death and resurrection the twelve disciples went out to the world to testify to their faith in Jesus and to share the Gospel. They were all eventually killed because of their faith. Each of the disciples were given an opportunity to deny Christ before they were killed but none of them would recant. Now it may be possible that someone would die for something that they know is a lie. But as Josh points out, it is almost impossible that twelve people would die excruciating deaths for something that they know is a lie. The conclusion then is that what these twelve disciples were testifying to was actually true. They were witnesses to Jesus’ ministry, saw Him crucified on the cross, saw Him risen from the dead, received the power of the Holy Spirit, spread the Gospel message and the power of Christ throughout the world, and they did all of that because they knew that it was true. They were so certain of the truth that they died for it, knowing full well that because of their faith they would be with Christ in heaven.

As believers in Christ, we too are witnesses of God. We have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, we have experienced the work of Christ in our lives, and we are called to testify to this truth. People may refuse to believe what you are telling them, but no one can deny the truth of what you have experienced and how Christ has changed your life. Be a witness!

LATJ: Forever — A Long, Long Time

17 11 2009

Statistically speaking, one out of every one is going to die. Have you really considered that statistic before? All of the things that we do on this earth may seem important, but in the scheme of eternity our time here is really very short. Since that is the case, our faith in God is a critical factor in how we should live.

What you believe about eternity has a great impact on how you live your life. In his book “Think Like Jesus”, George Barna says it this way: “One of the Bible’s more important points is that our final destination is more important than what we achieve during our time on earth, and spending the remainder of eternity in heaven ought to be our present goal. Achieving the right to become a citizen of heaven should be our primary aim in life.”

But is faith really all that important? Zig Ziglar answered that question this way: “Faith is very important. I did the math, and you are going to be dead a lot longer than you are going to be alive!” This life is just the starting point for all of us. God has offered everyone a choice in how they will spend eternity — in heaven with Him or eternally separated from Him. If you haven’t accepted Christ’s invitation then you need to consider how you’ll spend eternity. If you have, then you need to start being more joyful — you know where you are going!

LATJ: If Only You Had Told Me

9 11 2009

Responsibility_KidsThe Great Commission is when Jesus issued His marching orders to all of His followers. “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20).

You may think that Jesus was just talking to his inner circle here and that this only applies to those trained in ministry or evangelism. But this wasn’t the first time that this charge was issued. If you look back in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 33, you will find that God makes it clear that this is a responsibility for all of us:

If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to warn them about changing their ways, then they will die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will not be held responsible.” (Ezekiel 33:8-9)

Not everyone is comfortable talking about their faith in Christ with others. It seems to be especially difficult to talk about it to family or close friends. Think back to your own salvation experience. You probably didn’t come to know Christ because of some doctrinal lecture in theology. More than likely it was due to the influence of many Christians around you and seeing the work of Christ in their lives. One of the most effective ways to share the Gospel with others is in the way you live your life and the joy that you show. Others will be attracted to you and will want to know the reason for the hope that you have. I love what Francis of Assisi said about sharing the Gospel: “Share the Gospel at all times — when necessary, use words.

LATJ: The Life of the Party

5 11 2009

party-balloons“It’s not about you.” Rick Warren starts off his wonderful book “The Purpose Driven Life” with that heart-piercing statement. What’s so wrong with wanting it to be about me? The world tells me it should be all about me. But as Warren says in the opening chapter, “Apart from God, all the things we use to try to fill our lives will always run out and fail to satisfy.” This is so true. So often we see that the things we thought we could count on turn out to disappoint us or fail to last. Even fame itself is fleeting.

We make idols of all sorts of things in our lives — celebrities, sports figures, jobs, cars, and all kinds of stuff. While it may be okay to hold certain people and things in high esteem, remember that they are all temporal and will someday be gone. Many times we look to those idols to distract us from the things going on in our lives. We try all sorts of things to make our life meaningful. But Warren reminds us that “our best human efforts at making life meaningful will always fall short of God’s plan to give our lives true meaning.” Or as my pastor once said, “false idols always fail.”

If you want real, life-sustaining purpose and meaning for your life, purpose that will outlast anything that you could ever think of, keep your focus on Jesus, the author and sustainer of life. “Everything got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him.” Col 1:16b